Working Well: How to Fix Low Blood Sugar at Work
If there’s one thing we know about here at the Timesulin office, it’s working with diabetes. Facing the ups and downs of a life with Type 1 while working long hours is something that we’ve grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, for other people with diabetes, many workplaces are not nearly as informed or accepting of people working with diabetes. This can be especially difficult for people with diabetes dealing with a hypoglycemic situation while on the job. How do you cope with suddenly feeling like you’re out of control in a situation where your co-workers and bosses expect you to be in control and composed at all times?
How to Fix Low Blood Sugar at Work
Effectively managing low blood sugar in the workplace begins long before you have a hypo episode at the office. Dealing with a hypo means you have to do something many people are still terrified of: telling your co-workers and boss that you have diabetes. This fear is largely misplaced. While it’s true that in the past, admitting to having diabetes at work could lead to serious repercussions, most countries now have laws in place that protect individuals with medical conditions from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. There are no more excuses, and it’s a great opportunity to inform and educate people around you about our condition and what it means. More importantly, it could save your life.
Informing Your Co-Workers
Sit down with your co-workers (at a larger company, it might only be necessary to sit down with the team members that you work the closest with) and share a little bit of information about diabetes and what it means. Specifically, let them know about what a hypoglycemic episode is and what you need to do when you feel one coming on. This makes it much easier to later excuse yourself from a meeting or conference to go check your sugar and take something to get your blood sugar up. If you have a history of particularly bad hypo episodes, it might be a good idea to designate one of your co-workers a buddy and give them an emergency supply of glucose gel or even an emergency glucagon injection kit. Just make sure they know what they’re doing ahead of time! And always keep some glucose gel, tabs, or some juice on hand at work.
Managing a Hypo
Now that you have that out of the way, what should you do if you actually feel a hypo coming on? If you’re working alone in an office or cubicle, it might be a good idea to let someone know, just in case. If you’re in a meeting or conference, let your boss or one of your coworkers know what’s happening and politely excuse yourself. If you’re meeting with clients by yourself, it’s ok to let them know. A lot of professionals are terrified that if they let people they’re meeting with know they have diabetes, it will somehow be a bad thing. It won’t! Most people are understanding, and diabetes is a high-profile enough condition that you won’t lose the sale just because you took a 15 minute break to be safe.
Once you’ve let someone know, the standard rules for dealing with low blood sugar apply. Whether you’re dealing with a hypo at home or in the office, follow the rule of 15: Test your blood sugar. If it’s lower than 70 mg/dl (3.9mmol/L), take 15 grams of carbs, wait 15 minutes, then retest. Keep doing this until your blood glucose level is in the safe range. If it takes longer than 15 minutes, don’t worry. One of the biggest dangers many people with diabetes face is risking their health because they’re more worried about what the person in the next cubicle might say than about their health. Don’t do that. Remember, your health is your number one priority.
People with diabetes have enough things to stress out about – dealing with a hypo at work should not be one of them. Prioritize your health, and don’t be afraid to stand up and say “I have diabetes, I need to deal with a low blood glucose problem, and I’ll be back in 15 minutes!”